Belgium's king acts to revive coalition talks

21st October 2010, Comments 0 comments

King Albert II of Belgium tasked a Flemish socialist senator on Thursday with bringing about "conciliation" between feuding political parties four months on from deeply divisive elections.

Johan Vande Lanotte was given a "primary objective" of "recreating confidence" in broken-down dialogue between French-speaking parties from Wallonia, where Socialists polled the most votes, and breakaway-minded Flemish hardliners, a palace statement said.

Vande Lanotte, 55, takes the baton four days after seven-party negotiations hit a new roadblock when a plan proposed by Flemish nationalist leader Bart De Wever, whose party triumphed in the vote in the Dutch-speaking federal state, was rejected by French-speaking parties.

He will file an intermediate report to the king on November 2, having been instructed to work in total "discretion" between now and then.

"At no stage were we ever consulted, neither by the palace nor by any of the parties involved," complained Jan Jambon of De Wever's N-VA after learning of the move.

They also complained that Belgium's liberals, on both sides of the country's linguistic divide, remain excluded from the talks.

Jambon said the same, seven-party formula had already "led to deadlock," but declared his party would "give everyone their chance."

French-speaking parties have accused De Wever of proposing budgetary reforms that would leave the federal state, Wallonia and Brussels city state each worse off.

The king has already named a string of negotiators and mediators -- De Wever was even given the title of "royal clarifier" -- in bids to keep on-and-off talks alive.

The failure to bridge differences has raised the possibility that the kingdom could split up, with Flanders, Wallonia and even a tiny German-speaking community each going separate ways.

© 2010 AFP

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